Herb Kelleher Chairman Southwest Airlines

Published on June 2, 2000

Herb Kelleher Chairman Southwest Airlines

Question: Which airline is the fifth largest in the United States and is the only airline to turn a profit for 24 consecutive years? You guessed it- Southwest Airlines. Mr. Kelleher put two basic business principles to work and never wavered from them: Find your niche market and be the best in it.

Southwest Airlines is not the airline for people who want luxury and thrills. It is the airline for those who want the lowest fares and care more about getting to their destination than having wine served to them on the flight. Guess what, enough people in this country find that attractive and have been loyal customers of Southwest Airlines for years. Southwest has managed to keep costs down and maintain profitability over a period of time that has seen both good and bad moments for the airline industry.

By the way, Mr. Kelleher managed to do this while giving great customer service. Noted for their excellent customer service, you wonder sometimes why a no thrills airline can provide better customer service than their competitors who offer additional services? Answer: It starts at the top.

Mr. Kelleher knows that customer service starts with him. How he treats his managers and how they treat their employees. Southwest Airlines is people oriented. They are very selective of the people they hire. You want to work for Southwest Airlines, you better know how to have a good time and have the ability to work with people. If you are grumpy, don’t bother to apply. By creating a fun environment to work in that is dedicated to serving their customers, employees feel the support they need to carry out their job. They see their managers doing it and they emulate that behavior.

Managers are also supported in their efforts by senior management. Every quarter Southwest purchases 2,500 copies of the latest book in management/customer service for all of their managers to read and hone their skills. I know because one quarter they purchased The Complete Idiots Guide to Great Customer Service written by yours truly and my colleague Don Blohowiak.

Congratulations Mr. Kelleher, our Titan Profile of the month. You have proven over and over again that staying focused in your niche and taking care of your employees and customers is a profitable strategy.

Posted in